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A Zero-Waste Grocery Store: The Future of Sustainability

Plastic is at the forefront of environmental pollution. 99% of plastics are made either partially or entirely from fossil fuels. It’s no secret that in the past twenty years, consumer goods have been produced and discarded at an alarming rate. For a long time now, plastic has been a great cause for concern, because it is not only used, but also unintentionally consumed in the form of microplastics. As National Geographic says, microplastics have moved into virtually every crevice on earth. It’s estimated that each of us consume about a credit-card’s worth of microplastics each week. From over-packaging, to using non-biodegradable materials for said packaging, and designing products to be single use, we are indirectly destroying the planet that we call home. Fortunately, there are people like the Macrinos who care a great deal about both the environment and the quality of life of future generations.

Lauren and Joseph Macrino opened a sustainable grocery store, “Tare,” almost a year ago, with a mission to reduce waste and offer nutritious food at more affordable prices. The store is “plastic-free, package-free” and wants to make it easier for consumers to shop sustainably. The couple were dedicated to shopping for their groceries this way in the Bay Area, but after moving, quickly discovered that Los Angeles did not have similar shops and decided to start their own. They say that after shopping waste-free for so many years, “it just seems crazy when you go to the grocery store and see everything packaged up.” Lauren says she was motivated by heartache, after visiting the Australian beaches she grew up on only to find them strewn with rubbish.

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The store is set up to offer a wide array of spices, oils, produce, noodles, and anything else you can imagine that go straight from dispensers into glass jars brought by the customers! Over 400 organic products in total, according to them. Even shipments they receive from the few non-local products they sell arrive inside double-layered paper bags, in very large quantities, completely plastic free. The grocery store is cleverly named “Tare,” which is the weight of an empty container. Since they use customers’ empty glass jars as “packaging,” this is a perfect name for the store. As the couple explains, a considerable portion of grocery prices are due to unnecessary packaging (consumers pay for the groceries + packaging + branding). Once customers check out, cashiers subtract the weight of the jar(s) using attached microchips to ensure that people only pay for what’s inside.

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The Macrinos emphasize that although they strive to live waste-free, they are not perfect by any means, and don’t expect others to be. They simply want to encourage others to “try their best” and eliminate wasteful behaviours wherever possible. In their words, “we just hope to be a beacon of hope that you can still avoid plastic and shop sustainably (even during this pandemic).” If large corporations were instructed to use this business model, imagine all of the long-term benefits, including cleaner air and less acidic oceans. Tare confirms that it is possible to live this way, if we all try a little harder.

One of my favourite quotes from their Instagram, “every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want,” resonates with me, as I’m sure it does with many others. If you wouldn’t spend money at a restaurant that doesn’t share your values, why would you contribute to an ever-growing global issue that you hope to change?

Mercy Johnson

Washington '23

Mercy is a third-year physiology major at the University of Washington who hopes to become a physician someday. She enjoys journalism, ethics, and anthropology courses. In her spare time, she loves to hike, play piano, and read. She is also a devoted coffee connoisseur!
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